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Jason Boyce: Amazon’s Robot Workforce Could Doom the American Worker

It would be easy to dismiss this shift toward robotics as only an issue for one company.

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Jason Boyce
The author of this Expert Opinion is Jason Boyce, founder of Avenue7Media

The year is 2030. Most humans have been replaced by machines in U.S. warehouses and factories. Millions of Americans are out of work and struggling to find jobs as robots pack, sort, ship, and carry out the myriad duties that just ten years ago were the purview of living, breathing workers. There are little job prospects in sight for these workers as automation has completely taken over numerous industries.

As fictitious as this sounds, it is not a scene out of a science-fiction novel, but instead a scenario that could occur in the very near future. Take, for example, Amazon’s recent launch of Proteus — the company’s first fully autonomous mobile robot. This should signal that much of the company’s workforce faces extinction by automation in the coming years.

Despite the inevitability that all industries will adopt some type of automation to improve productivity and profitability, it is important that lawmakers take steps now to protect the human workforce before big tech behemoths like Amazon begin to phase them out.

Amazon certainly has plenty of incentive to replace its human workforce with automated machines.

For instance, there are rumors that Amazon is worried it could run out of workers to hire for its U.S. warehouses by 2024 — putting  the tech giant’s service quality and growth plans at risk, creating additional motivation to embrace the capabilities of robots. Labor shortages would be a thing of the past.

The tech giant, which has a history of taking advantage of egregious tax loopholes, may even be using robots to game the system. For example, research and development expenses, a category that investment in automation could fall under, are deductible and eligible for capital expenditure tax credits. Meanwhile, only certain types of human capital investments are tax deductible.

With its concern solely on the company’s bottom line, Amazon has plenty of other motives to transition to complete automation; robots can’t unionize, they don’t get injured and require workers’ compensation, and they never go to managers and demand better working conditions.

While nobody but Amazon’s corporate executives know the full reason for the company’s speedy shift toward robotics, a good argument can be made that recent efforts by workers to unionize have played a significant role. The company has threatened to withhold benefits and wages from employees who support union efforts, terminated pro-union workers, and is attempting to overturn the Staten Island warehouse union victory.

A notoriously high injury rate

Amazon is also notorious for its high injury rates among employees. In 2021 alone, 34,000 serious injuries were reported on the job at Amazon — resulting  in plenty of negative press. The company has made it difficult for injured workers to be compensated or receive time off, deprived disabled and pregnant employees of reasonable accommodations, and has even fired workers who voiced their concerns about inadequate protections.

It would be easy to dismiss this shift toward robotics as only an issue for one company — despite Amazon employing one out of every 153 Americans — but experts believe that automation could destroy up to 73 million jobs in the U.S. as soon as 2030.

With the threat of millions of Americans being forced out of work due to automation, lawmakers in Washington need to act immediately to protect their constituents’ livelihoods and the future of the American worker.

One step elected officials could take is to pass a so-called “robot tax,” which would force companies to pay a fee every time they replace a human worker with an automated machine. Such a tax would not only make firms think twice about replacing their human workforce, but the revenues from the levy could also fund programs to upskill or re-skill workers.

Lawmakers could also learn from how the government handles environmental protections and require companies bidding on contracts to submit an impact assessment that outline the jobs robotics might eliminate, the types and number of jobs that might be created by the proposed project, and a plan to retrain workers who are directly affected by the use of robots.

Amazon and other businesses should not be blamed for wanting to make the transition to a robotic workforce, as all companies are tempted to cut expenses and improve their earnings. But it is important to recognize the potential threat these technologies pose for the U.S. labor market and, in particular, for the 1.1 million Amazon employees in the U.S.  We must implement policies that disincentivize tech companies from making an abrupt switch to automation that could eliminate the livelihoods of millions.

The complete adoption of a robotic workforce is no longer confined to the realm of science-fiction and if we want to prevent the rise of the machines from completely taking over industries, we need to confront this reality before it is too late.

Jason Boyce is the author of “The Amazon Jungle” and founder of Amazon managed services agency, Avenue7Media. Previously, Boyce was an 18-year Top-200 Amazon seller. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

Broadband's Impact

Dianne Crocker: Recession Fears Have Real Estate Market Forecasters Hitting the Reset Button

Growing fears of recession trigger pullback on previous rosy forecasts.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Dianne Crocker, Principal Analyst for LightBox

The lyrics to “Same As It Ever Was” by the Talking Heads certainly don’t apply to how 2022 is playing out in the commercial real estate market. Two quarters of negative economic growth has put a damper on market sentiment and triggered fears that the U.S. economy is heading for a recession. By midyear, market analysts were taking a good, hard look at their rosy forecasts from the start of the New Year and redrawing the lines.

Once upon a time…

At the start of 2022, forecasters were bullishly predicting that commercial real estate investment and lending levels would be nearly as good as 2021. This was significant, considering that 2021 set new records for deal-making and lending volume as the debt and equity capital amassed during the pandemic while looking for a home in U.S. commercial real estate.

What a difference a few quarters have made. Virtually, all the predictions that started the New Year were obsolete by mid-summer. The abrupt shift in market conditions is palpable and surprised just about everyone. Now, markets are reaching an inflection point that is in sharp contrast with the strong rebound of last year.

The two I’s: Inflation and interest rates

At the core of the recent upset in market sentiment is the persistence of high inflation, which seems to be ignoring all attempts by the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates and bring prices down. Higher inflation is having a ripple effect throughout the economy, pushing up the costs of construction materials, energy, and consumer goods. Among the notable economic indicators showing stress at mid-year was the GDP, which fell for the second consecutive quarter, and the Consumer Price Index, which jumped 9.1% year-over-year in June – the highest increase in about four decades.

In July, the CPI fell to 8.5%, an encouraging sign that inflation was beginning to stabilize. By the latest August report from LightBox, however, hopes were dashed when the CPI showed little improvement, holding firm at a still high of 8.3%.

The market is responding to a higher cost of capital as lenders tap the brakes. As the cost of capital rises with each interest rate hike and concerns of a recession intensify, many large U.S. financial institutions are pulling back on their loan originations for the rest of 2022 and into 2023. This change in tenor is a significant shift, given that 2021 was a record-breaking year for commercial real estate lending. Many lenders have already shifted to a more defensive underwriting position as they look to mitigate risks.

The Mortgage Bankers Association, which had previously predicted that lending levels in 2022 would break the $1 trillion mark for the first time revised their forecast downward in mid-July. By year-end, the MBA now expects volume to be a significant 18% below 2021 levels—and one-third lower than the bullish forecast made in February. Now, investment activity is cooling as higher borrowing costs drive some buyers from the market.

In the investment world, transactions were down by 29% at midyear due to a thinning buyer pool as higher rates impact access to debt capital. Market volatility is causing investors, lenders, and owners to rethink strategies, reconsider assumptions, and prepare for possible disruption.

Looking ahead to year-end and 2023

The rapid and diverse shifts in the market make for an uncertain forecast and certainly a more cautious investment environment. The battle between inflation and interest rates will continue over the near term. As LightBox’s investor, lender, valuation, and environmental due diligence clients move toward the 4th quarter—typically the busiest quarter of the year–unprecedented volatility is driving them to recalibrate and reforecast given recent market developments.

Continued softness in transaction volume is likely to continue as rates and valuations establish a new equilibrium. If property prices begin to level out, there will be more pressure on buyers to consider how to improve a property to get their return on investment. The next chapter of the commercial real estate market will be defined by how long inflation sticks around, how high interest rates go, and whether the economy slips into a recession (and how deeply). The greatest areas of opportunity will be found in asset classes like office and retail that are evolving away from traditional uses and morphing to meet the needs of today’s market. Until barometers stabilize, it’s important to rethink assumptions, watch developments, and recalibrate as necessary.

Dianne Crocker is the Principal Analyst for LightBox, delivering strategic analytics, best practices in risk management, market intelligence reports, educational seminars, and customized research for stakeholders in commercial real estate deals. She is a highly respected expert on commercial real estate market trends. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Broadband's Impact

Reason 3 to Attend Broadband Mapping Masterclass: State Maps vs. Federal Maps

The 3rd of 5 reasons to attend the Broadband Mapping Masterclass with Drew Clark on 9/27 at 12 Noon ET

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WASHINGTON, September 23, 2022 – The third reason to attend the Broadband Mapping Masterclass with Drew Clark on September 27, 2022, is to get a handle on what state broadband officers have and are doing with broadband maps.

While much of the action has been at the Federal Communications Commission, after state allocations have been made, funding decisions will ultimately come from state broadband officers.

Broadband Breakfast is hosting the 2-hour Broadband Mapping Masterclass to help Internet Service Providers, mapping and GIS consultants, and people in everyday communities concerned about broadband mapping.

This 2-hour Masterclass, available for only $99, will help you navigate the treacherous waters around broadband mapping. The live Broadband Mapping Masterclass is being recorded, and those who make a one-time $99 payment will obtain a guaranteed place during the live session.

ENROLL TODAY for our Zoom Webinar through PayPal.

Registrants will also receive unlimited on-demand access to the Masterclass recording. And they will receive Broadband Breakfast’s premium research report on broadband mapping.

Learn More about Why You Should Participate in the Broadband Mapping Masterclass

We’re presenting five additional reasons to attend the Broadband Mapping Masterclass.

Additional reason number 3 to attend the Masterclass

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act allocates $42.5 billion for the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program. Every state will receive at least $100 million in funding, but the remaining more-than $37 billion will be allocated among states based upon a formula that is primarily determined by their percentage of the unserved population. (According to IIJA, a location is “unserved” if it lacks access to broadband at 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload. An area is “underserved” if it lacks 100 Mbps * 20 Mbps broadband.)

That’s where the FCC’s updated broadband map come in: Once challenges to the map are concluded, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration will allocate that $37 billion pool according to the “denominator” that the NTIA reads out from the FCC map.

But state and their broadband offices have a trump card: They can and are developing their own maps to check, verify and challenge the FCC map. Furthermore, they are under no obligation to award funds according to the actual places that the FCC says are unserved or underserved.

In the Broadband Mapping Masterclass, you’ll learn what you need to know in order to tap into these efforts by state broadband offices.

ENROLL TODAY  to find out what happens next.

Learn More about Why You Should Participate in the Broadband Mapping Masterclass

Read more about the reasons to attend the Broadband Mapping Masterclass

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Broadband's Impact

Reason 2 to Attend Broadband Mapping Masterclass: Aren’t There Other Databases?

The 2nd of 5 reasons to attend the Broadband Mapping Masterclass with Drew Clark on 9/27 at 12 Noon ET.

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WASHINGTON, September 22, 2022 – The second reason to attend the Broadband Mapping Masterclass with Drew Clark on September 27, 2022, is to find out what other databases and software tools are available to get a handle on broadband mapping.

Broadband Breakfast is hosting the 2-hour Broadband Mapping Masterclass to help Internet Service Providers, mapping and GIS consultants, and people in everyday communities concerned about broadband mapping.

This 2-hour Masterclass, available for only $99, will help you navigate the treacherous waters around broadband mapping. The live Broadband Mapping Masterclass is being recorded, and those who make a one-time $99 payment will obtain a guaranteed place during the live session.

ENROLL TODAY for our Zoom Webinar through PayPal.

Registrants will also receive unlimited on-demand access to the Masterclass recording. And they will receive Broadband Breakfast’s premium research report on broadband mapping.

Learn More about Why You Should Participate in the Broadband Mapping Masterclass

In addition to obtaining lifetime access to the recording – and a premium research report from Broadband Breakfast – we’re presenting five additional reasons to attend the Broadband Mapping Masterclass between now and the LIVE Zoom Webinar on Tuesday, September 27, 2022, at 12 Noon ET.

Additional reason number 2 to attend the Masterclass

The first version of the National Broadband Map was published with much fanfare on February 17, 2011. Each of the 50 states, 5 territories and the District of Columbia compiled broadband information from providers on a Census block basis. Significantly, carriers were required to disclose their service locations and feed that information into state and federal maps.

The National Broadband Map lasted for about five years, when the data collection effort – a partnership of the FCC, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the state broadband offices – concluded. But the publicly available data fed by the National Broadband Map remained. Many private companies and non-profit entities began to use this publicly available data and integrate into other public collections of data.

In the Broadband Mapping Masterclass, you’ll learn about these resources, databases, tools and projects – and how they provide many more forms of broadband data than simply that which is available from the FCC.

ENROLL TODAY  to find out what happens next.

Learn More about Why You Should Participate in the Broadband Mapping Masterclass

Read more about the reasons to attend the Broadband Mapping Masterclass

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